Mushroom Men: Rise of the Fungi - first look

By now, you’ve probably caught a glance at the eye-popping concept art for Mushroom Men, and you’re as anxious for a look at the actual game as we are. Thankfully, we got that look last week, when we met with the developers in Austin, Texas, to see Mushroom Men in motion.

As far as the setup goes, it seems a comet crashed to earth, brought a whole bunch of stuff to life, and plunged the once tiny and ignored world of fungus into chaos. These sentient mushrooms have formed tribes to fend off hordes of food-thieving bugs, and in the game, you can play as three classes of fungi, focused on either close-quarters fighting, ranged attacks or "spore power" – your telekinetic ability.

In this 2.5-D sidescroller, you’ve got to navigate your pint-sized 'shrooms through 10 levels of real- world, indoor peril. Seemingly innocuous household objects turn helpful and harmful when they’re up to three times your size, and you’ll have to experiment with your environment in order to progress. We witnessed the little hero use a bendy soda straw as a springboard, then kick a spray can off an ironing board, which activated a table saw, that motored across a surface to bridge an unjumpable gap.

Mushroom Men is one game that doesn’t waste the DS’ second screen. First, it functions as an extremely detailed map that allows you to click between objectives and find save points. The developers boast that this feature makes it nearly impossible to get lost in these little-big worlds.

Up next for your stylus is the "Scav" system inventory screen. Here’s where you’ll store all the nifty little items you scavenge across each level. You can use it to build bigger and bigger weapons, as well as upgrade stats like strength, power and speed. If that weren’t enough, you can also view enemies’ strengths and weakness, and then tailor your weapon of choice to better suit your adversary.

Mushroom Men has done the impossible and maintained our interest. Plus, it’s got co-op and a feature we don’t see enough of: optional righty-lefty control schemes. Though the DS game is set in the same universe as the Wii’s Mushroom Men: The Spore Wars, it’s more of a prequel and it’s entirely different in its look and feel. Mushroom Men:Rise of the Fungihits a few months before its Wii counterpart, so you’ll have plenty of time to experience the entire saga.

Mar 12, 2008